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Breast uplifts – should I have surgery?

Breast uplifts – should I have surgery?

If you are unhappy with the way your breasts have changed in the last few years, you might be considering breast uplift surgery. Your breasts may change shape for many reasons such as relaxation of the ligaments due to age, weight loss, or having children. Breast uplift surgery (also known as mastopexy) is done to lift and re-shape your breasts, and give them a fuller and firmer appearance.

This article on breast uplifts is by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

Could breast uplift surgery be right for me?

You can have a breast uplift no matter what size your breasts are. However, women with small, saggy or uneven breasts will benefit the most. Gravity is unkind to larger breasts and may make the breasts sag again, despite successful surgery. If you still think you might want to have children in the future, it may be an idea to leave a breast uplift until later. Pregnancy can stretch the tissue around the breasts and the improvement seen with the operation would disappear.

When making your decision, you need to consult a good cosmetic surgeon with a good reputation in a well regarded private hospital or clinic. You will need to think carefully about:

  • What you expect from breast uplift surgery – cosmetic surgery cannot work miracles and you need to make sure your expectations are realistic.

  • How much the operation will cost. Breast uplift surgery is generally not available under the National Health Service. In the UK private surgery to live the breasts costs between £3250 and £5500.

  • How you feel about having a major operation with a general anaesthetic. There are risks involved and you need to be clear that you are willing to take them.

  • What happens during surgery? How long will you stay in hospital, how long will the operation last, how will you feel afterwards, what is the recovery time?

The following information will provide you with some good basic background but you will need to discuss your plans with your family, partner and your surgeon, as appropriate, before making your final decision.

What happens during breast uplift surgery?

You always have a general anaesthetic when you have breast uplift surgery. The exact nature of breast uplift surgery depends on what your breasts are like and what needs to be changed in order to improve their appearance. Generally, breast uplift surgery involves making incisions around the areola, from the areola to the crease below the breast, and along the crease. Skin is removed either from around the areola or from under your breasts. The nipples put back in a new position and the size of the areola can be modified to make the breasts look as natural as possible.

If a lot of volume has been lost, your surgeon may need to insert implants to help give shape to the breast. In this case, your breast uplift surgery will also include breast enlargement. If you have large breasts, your surgeon may need to remove some breast tissue to stop them from drooping; your procedure will therefore also include a breast reduction.  

The cuts are then closed with stitches, which may be dissolvable. Your breasts are then wrapped in a special supportive dressing or support bra. Fine plastic tubes that allow blood and fluids to drain may be left in each breast for up to 48 hours following breast uplift surgery.

How do I prepare for breast uplift surgery?

You may be asked to stop smoking before surgery to prevent delays to your recovery. You will need to be prepared for an overnight stay in hospital, and you will need bring a soft, supportive bra without under-wiring to wear following the surgery. Before your breast uplift surgery, your surgeon will measure and assess your breasts, and may mark the position of the surgical cuts. Photographs may be taken to compare with the results, and you may also have a mammogram.

What should I expect following breast uplift surgery?

It is important to have realistic expectations of the appearance of your breasts following breast uplift surgery and to bear the following in mind:

  • You may need pain relief as the anaesthetic wears off. This can be in over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

  • You will not be able to drive until you are comfortable you can perform an emergency stop without discomfort, so you will need to arrange transport home.

  • Dissolvable stitches will disappear in 7–10 days. Non-dissolvable stitches are removed 7–14 days following breast uplift surgery.

  • Although you can walk and do very light activities from the next day, you should rest for 7–10 days. You will need up to two weeks to recover completely.

  • You will need to wear a support bra for 4–6 weeks after breast uplift surgery to support the healing wounds. You will have soreness and swelling for a few weeks. You should not lift heavy objects or do any strenuous activity for at least 6 weeks after the operation.

  • It will be a few months before you can see your new breast shape properly. The scar for a standard mastopexy is usually red and raised for 1–2 months following breast uplift surgery. However, most scarring fades and is hardly noticeable within 2 years.

Are there any risks or complications with breast uplift surgery?

Side-effects of breast uplift surgery include:

  • Soreness, swelling and bruising - this can last up to a month

  • Burning sensation in your nipples - this can last several weeks

  • Scarring

Complications specific to breast uplift surgery are uncommon but can include:

  • Infection.

  • Bleeding, particularly under the skin.

  • A change in skin and nipple sensation (this can be permanent).

  • Unusual red or raised scars (keloids), an unevenness in size and shape, or loss of part, or even all, loss of a nipple due to tissue death.

Should I have breast uplift surgery?

In the end, when you are fully informed and have discussed the possibility with those close to you and your medical advisors, the decision is still down to you. If you feel that the operation is right for you at this time in your life and you can afford it, then the decision should be yes. But if you have any doubts, put off the operation until you can be sure.

Kathryn Senior

Profile of the author

Dr Kathryn Senior is an acclaimed medical journalist who has written over 500 feature articles for leading international journals within The Lancet group. As Senior Writer at Freelance Copy she produces high quality scientific and medical content for websites and printed publications for companies and organisations in the health, medical and pharmaceutical sectors.

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